This was recently the 30th anniversary of a discreet but influential wine magazine named Le Rouge et le Blanc, and to mark the occasion on a festive note, the people behind this insightful wine magazine had decided to organize a tasting with precisely 30 vignerons (here is the list of winegrowers). This took place again in the nice setting of La Cartonnerie in the middle of the 11th arrondissement in Paris. La Cartonnerie is a venue that suits so well to artisan wine that I've been visiting the place many times. When I got word of this event I thought that I couldn't miss this one-of-its-kind event, especially that I could count on the wise choice of the R&B writers for the participating vintners, all artisan winegrowers selected for their patient work.
Le Rouge & Le Blanc stands clearly apart among the French wine monthly publications (first, it's actually published every 3 months). Compared to the mainstream and glossy wine magazines like La Revue des Vins de France, Gault & Millau and Terre de Vins, le Rouge & Le Blanc is foremost completely independant in the sense that it hasn't any of these ads financed by the deep-pocketed wine industry. The magazine was created in 1983 and it is managed to this day by the writers and the founders who write and report on the wines and winemakers they love, without being hampered by any commercial pressure or lobbying. The magazine which uses minimalist black & white photography for its illustrations is solely financed by the subscriptions of its readers. The writers keep a day job on the side and the magazine is really a project focused on uncompromising reporting and not really for profit.
François Morel, pictured on left (wearing glasses) with Maxime Magnon is the editor in chief of the publication, you may see him in the worthy tasting events in Paris, he also wrote several books including a book titled Vallée de la Loire with many profiles of winemakers working there (and with a few pictures of mine).
François Morel is also the one who organised this one-time tasting event, gathering these winemakers and setting up the logistics for all the details and the catering for the winemakers.
I had an invitation for this event but otherwise the entry fee was 5 € only, a good deal when you consider the wines you could taste there. I think we're very lucky in Paris in this regard, we hardly pay anything to taste interesting wines.
__ Jean-Yves Peron La Petite Robe white Vin de France (table wine) 2012.
Made with the Jacquère variety, a local white grape. Purchased grapes. Jean-Yves says that he works the same way with his own grapes and the purchased ones. He made 8 to 10 vats of this wine. In 2013 his yields were 17 hectoliters/hectare. The soil is shist which yields low volumes. The wine had a year of élevage in casks. Very nice wine, fresh feel,
and it is made without any SO2, and on wild yeast of course. Jean-Yves says that the wine begins to taste well since some 10 days.
__ Jean-Yves Peron La Petite Robe white Vin de France (table wine) 2011, same wine but previous vintage. Had a year élevage in bottles. Incredible wine, very different, radiates lots of energy, refined, very nice texture. Vinified in casks only, demi-muids. Makes 11 % in alcohol, and what a mouth for such a low alcohol...
__ Jean-Yves Peron Vers la Maison Rouge, Rosé 2012, Vin de France. Direct-press Mondeuse (local red grape variety). Nice, refined tanninc feel for this pale-colored rosé. Light wine too, 10 % in alcohol. Nice welcome bitterness at the end of the mouth.
__ Jean-Yves Peron La Grande Journée Vin de France 2012 (white). Maceration (6 or 7 weeks) of Altesse grapes (another local grape variety). 12 % in alcohol. He made two 350-liter casks of this wine, with a one-year élevage. Golden color. Malolactic is completed because like all his wines there no added SO2 at all. For him it's obvious thatthe malolactic has to be let unfold. The nose isn't very expressive, because of the variety style I guess. In the mouth there's a nice expression, a thin silk-paper feel wrapped with a subtle bitterness. Try if you come across this. Jean-Yves says that the colden color comes from the maceration time, and also because he waits for high maturity. I like the character of his wines, they're very pure in their expression.
__ Jean-Yves Peron Les Oeillets 2012. Maceration of Jacquère (white variety), 10,5% in alcohol ! Nice nose. Nice round mouth, fruity, nice chew too, with a light oxidative character. Refined, good lengtyh in the mouth. Another very classy wine, cngratulation, and this 10,5 % in alcohol is amazing. Jean-Yves Peron says that it wasn't the wine he wanted to do but I find the result very good.
__ Jean-Yves Peron Roche Blanche Vin de France 2012, Jacquère (white) from a parcel on another terroir. 11 % in alcohol. Limestone soil. 3 week maceration. A bit oxidative, the mouth is shorter in my feel. If I believe my notes, the maceration takes place in the cool 15°C of the cellar and in small-size boxes so that the whole-clustered grapes aren't crushed by their own weight.
__ Jean-Yves Peron Champ Levat , (red) Vin de Pays d'Allobrogie (I think it's 2012 but not sure). Old vines of Mondeuse, 11 % in alcohol. Very exciting nose, the color is dark but at the same time transluscent. Mouth : always this balance between the thin tannic frame (especially thin for a Mondeuse where the tannins can be rough) and freshness. Very very nice, don't miss that, no spitting. Asked about these refined tannins, Jean-Yves says that the shist soil is why, on limestone the tannins are more upfront.
The Domaine des Miquettes is located in Cheminas near Tournon in the south of the St Joseph area, it was created in 2003 by Paul and Chrystelle. They work on barely more than 4 hectares, mostly Syrah and a bit of Viognier. Paul is originally from the region and before setting up his winery with Chrystelle he sold grapes to the local coopérative. Read in this post what Seattle-based Garagiste's Jon Rimmerman wrote about the domaine des Miquettes in 2009.
__ Domaine des Miquettes, Syrah, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2012. Vineyards at
an altitude of 450 m. Vinified in vats, bottled after a year. Very aromatic nose, eucalyptus notes and the likes. Mouth : dust. Not much length. 9 € tax included.
__ Domaine des Miquettes, Saint Joseph 2012. 30 % destemmed, vinified in open cement vats, then in 400-liter barrels (only old ones). The nose offers more complexity, and is more appealing with cooked fruits notes and ripe flowers on a summer evening. Good balance in the mouth, neither burning or excessively tannic. Not bad, a Rhone to try, very digest and easy. Costs 14 € tax included. they add SO2 only onece after the malolactic. And since 2013 he vinifies everything without any SO2, he took this decision after experimenting along several years on the side with batches made without any sulfites.
__ Domaine des Miquettes, Saint Joseph 2012, the same cuvée, but without any added SO2. Same lablel but there's just an ink-pad sign telling the wine is without added sulfites (Sans Sulfites Ajoutés).This was the batch on the side made to experiment a no-sulfites wine. Not bad at all, with something more saucy and alive in the expression of the wine, I like that plus. From a 50-year old vineyard also at an altitude of 450 meters. Yields of 20 ho/ha. Low alcohol (12,5 % if I can read my notes). Costs 15 € tax included.
It is great and rare to have the opportunity to taste the two wines side by side, the one with some SO2 and the other without. That's what many wineries should do, just for a try, André Durrmann in Alsace (whom I visited a few months ago) did that and his customers who most come at the winery to buy the wine were overwhelmingly choosing the no-sulfites wine after tasting the two versions as it tasted so much better. This seems a common-sense way to let people choose.
__ Domaine des Miquettes, Saint Joseph 2012 White. Marsanne, only in stainless-steel vat. Nose : Hawthorn flowers. Nice glinding feel on the palate. Ampleness with a discreet power which grows when you swallow. Not bad at all. Costs 15 €.
__ Domaine des Miquettes, Maldoba, Vin de France (white). 2/3 Marsanne & 1/3 Viognier. Vinified in amphorae on its skins with a 6-month maceration, Gergian style, then another 6 months of élevage in the same amphorae after taking the skins out. They travelled a few times to Georgia and were inspired by their vinification techniques. The grapes grew on the Saint-Joseph appellation area but given the vinification mode and the subsequent style of the wine they didn't even try to pass the agreement to get the AOC. Nose : menthol notes. Again, nice touch on the palate, very nice wine, and out of the norm, try that. 14 % alc. Incredible, you'd swear it is 12 %. Paul says that the amphora plays a role in the texture of the wine and on the particular mouth touch. Costs 20 €. I wrote on my notebook that next year, he'll do also a Saint-Joseph in an amphora [I presume he meant a red St-Jo].
__ Domaine Thymiopoulos, Rosé de Xinomavro 2013 (en Français dans le texte). Fresh and tannic, almost fizzy. Refreshing.
__ Domaine Thymiopoulos Naoussa 2012. Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro (also in French - young vines of Xinomavro), planted 5 years ago. Certified organic by Green Control, a Greel certification body. Naoussa is an appellation area where quality winegrowing is on the front seat, from what I understand.
Nice fresh feel, in spite of the 13% alc. Aromas in the range of dust, the mouth is atypical and pleasant.
__ Domaine Thymiopoulos, Oenos Naoussa, Xinomavro 2011. Strange, surprising wine, the tannins are forward, but refined, this gives a particular, interesting chew to the wine. 14% in alcohol, but well handled with the other characters of the wine. The color shows an evolution toward onion peel. Nose : large flowers in a summer evening.
__ Domaine Thymiopoulos, Naoussa Vieilles Vignes 2011 Cuvée Terre et Ciel. Nose : complexity, still in the register of ripe flowers in a summer late afternoon, cooked fruit too. This wine is more powerful, again with this nice particular tannic frame. A bit too powerful for my taste maybe but this wine is obviously very well done and will conquer many. Wines in this domaine get some So2 at bottling, resulting in a grade of 300 to 50 total SO2 in the wine.
__ Domaine Thymiopoulos, Xinomavro Nature 2012. A cuvée without any added SO2. Interesting nose, flowery notes The wine is wildly different from the previous wines, it radiates energy beautifully in the mouth at swallowing (the fools who don't swallow at tastings may pass this character). Aromas of mediteranean aromatic plants, thyme, guarrigue and so on. Very refined. Tannins here are also very present but get well with the dust feel and the aromas.
__ Mas Del Périé "Tu Vin plus aux Soirées" ( sounds like "tu ne viens plus aux soirés" something like "you don't
go out anymore at parties"). Fabien has other weird-name cuvées like "Cochon de Dieu", "You Fuck my Wine ?!" or "Le Vin qui Râpe".
Tu Vin plus aux Soirées is a thirst wine, a petit canon or a vin de saucisson to drink casually between friends, it is labelled as Vin de France and made of Cabernet Franc and Côt (Malbec) this year (I've read it has been made also with Tannat & Cab Franc). Mouth : meaty, very enjoyable wine. Short length but goes down pretty well.
Costs only 10 € tax included
__ Mas Del Périé La Roque 2012. 35-year-ol Malbec, 2,5-hectare surface at an altitude of 350m and with clayish soil, yielding denser wines. Another meaty wine, lovely to drink.
Fabien intended intially to study medecine at the university in 2005/2006 but he stopped short because his parents were stopping their activity and intended to sell the domaine, so he decided to take the reins of the domaine instead of pursuing medical studies. He really learnt to love wine at that time. He says that when you work naturally in the vineyard and in the cellar, wine is really the incarnation of the emotion of a winegrower, which is magical.
__ Mas Del Périé Acacias 2011. 45-year vineyard on a clay/limestone Siderolitic soil which is very rich in iron. A very, very beautiful wine, with what I'd call a solar freshness. The mouth is incredibly luminous, a real surprise and pleasure. Discreet tannins. There's almost a saline feel in this wine, and asked about it, Fabien says that the biodynamie plays a role (it has been farmed this way for 4 years now), and it is also the terroir, he says that this terroir is his "Grand Cru". Costs 25 € tax included, he made 5000 bottles of this cuvée.
__ Mas Del Périé Les Escures 2013. This vintage (2013) has been catastrophic for him, with yields of 7 ho/ha because of hailstorms, which happened june 18th, a day after the samely-destructive ones at Vouvray (which was june 17th). He was at Vinexpo that day, happy after good contacts there, and his father called him, saying "it's over, the harvest is gone...." (on a récolté which is a code word for winegrowers meaning the fruit is destroyed).
This cuvée Les Escures is a Burgundy-type selection parcellaires, a blend of parcels. Elevage in casks, often in small-volume casks for the young winess so that the lees sediment quickly, and thus they don't have to filter or fine, they use 225, 300 and 400 liters. He has also a few bigger-volume vessels, Stockinger foudres for longer élevage like 24 months where the lees will have plenty of time to settle down. Côt loves wood, Fabien says. Speaking about Stockinger and as I tell him that I heard they had a particularly-good quality of wood which they take a long time to let it dry slowly, he says that the French cooperages on the opposite speed the drying because of the high demand they don't control, and the result translates into unpleasant wood imprint in the wine.
This wine has a nice mineral feel. Again, the tannins are refined and on the back seat, surprising for a Cahors Malbec. Nice wine.
__ Mas Del Périé, Orange Voilée, Chenin Blanc. One year maceration on skins, orange wine. Georgian-style skin maceration. The wine took the veil, like the Vin Jaune of Jura, it was not his intent, it took this way by itself, and he says it gave the wine a root style. No notes, but I remember I loved it. Fabien sells his wine in 20 countries, beginning with the United States and Japan.
Now and then, you would pause in the alley to chat with someone you're happy to see again, François Morel, Marc Sibard from Caves Augé (pictured on left) or complete strangers who tell about their vinous experiences. I spoke for example to someone who was in the teaching field (public sector) and who had been going to those first natural-wine bars around 1990 when this was cimpletely unknown including in the wine trade. I told the guy to write what he remembers of this time and anecdotes, people he met, wines that impressed him, I'm sure that there could be something to do with the recollections of unconnected individuals about this nascent period when there was no name or movement, just the wonder to discover new, exciting wines...
You could also stop for a plate of something, they sold food under the glass roof, or you could just pich a few slices of crunchy bread to drown in the wine, there was no shortage of it (pic on right).
Through this video you can gauge both the crowd and the interesting situation of this venue, with its patina, its connected rooms and its glass-roofed courtyard.
At min 2:52 there's a vigneron from Burgundy of whom I wanted to taste the wines but I forgot to come back when the stand was less crowded. I have to accept the fact that given the time I spend at each table, I'll always miss many wine opportunities in tasting events
Maxime Magnon is making wine in the Languedoc, in Villeneuve-les-Corbières in the Corbières area. He works on a 12-hectare surface and makes only 2 reds and one white, or 30 000 bottles in total. His farm animals wander between the rows and both eat the grass and leave natural compost.
__ Maxime Magnon Campagnès Corbières 2012. Carignan & Cinsault. Very old vines of Carignan, more than 100 years old. 30-day vat time. The carignan part has its élevage in casks and the cinsault in foudres (large-capacity barrels).
In the mouth, some bitterness and a nice freshness just behind, this is very curious. 14 % alc. He says that he picks the grapes when well ripe. Nice high-altitude terroirs, yielding nice wines since 2008.
__ Maxime Magnon Corbières Rozeta 2012. Grenache, Cinsault & Carignan. Yields of 20 ho/ha. 12-hectoliter cuvée. Same freshness, and even more energy , radiates in the mouth. Chocolate notes in the aromas.
__ Maxime Magnon Corbières La Begou 2012. White wine made out of Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc. 2,5 hectare surface. Nice bitterness with a tannic wrapping, interesting wine.
When he began to work there in 2002 the region was very conventional in terms of vineyard management, using lots of chemicals. He says that vineyard land is affordable in this region, and cost something like 6000 € an hectare. You can find available vineyards now and then, especially from those who were selling their grapes to the coopétative.
__ Le Clos du Rouge Gorge, Cuvée Rouge Gorge, Côtes Catalanes 2012. 80 % Carignan & 20 % Grenache. 13 % alc. Appealing nose with fruit and meat juice notes. Tender style of wine. Cyril works on the maturity to keep some freshness in the wine in spite of the heavy sun of the region. It’ll be alas the only wine that I’ll get because the box with the white and the young-vines red was lost in the shipping
I stopped at the table of Domaine Antoine Arena (Corsica), the domaine was started in 1980 with 3 hectares and its surface now is 14 hectares.
__ Antoine Arena Bianci Gentile 2013, Vin de France, Vermentino (Rolle). Nice dry white, a southern white (more powerful than what I use to drink), and very mineral it seems to me.
__ Antoine Arena Morta Maio, Patrimonio 2011. Niellucio . Tannic chew, and again, freshness just behind that. Not really my type of wine but still impressing, there's a character here.
__ Antoine Arena Muscat du Cap Corse 2012. Natural sweet wine. Beautiful nose, lots of vividness, with acidulous candy (Berlingot) notes. Mouth : intense, a gorgeous wine that you drink so easily, it goes down a treat. Freshness that makes you forget the sugar.
Pablo Hocht studied enology and worked some time in Uruguay, you can follow all his past experiences on his blog, and it is very interesting because along with the many pictures you can see the different stages of an aspiring vigneron, like when he finds an old tractor for his future winery. His experience in Uruguay is also very interesting, with the business mindset of these large wineries, a working style he's not been accustomed to in Séguret, where most wineries are small family wineries.
The labels are all the work of his father, a German artist who settled with his French wife in Séguret.
__ Domaine de Crève Coeur, Rosé du Coucou 2013. Grenache & Cinsault. Very nice tannic texture in the mouth, especially for a rosé. Clear color, onion-peel shades. Vineyard in a cool valley. Costs 6 € tax included.
__ Domaine de Crève Coeur, Côtes du Rhone 2011. 100 % Grenache. Vinified 100 % whole-clustered in cement vats at a maximum temperature of 29/30 °C. Pumping over and cap punching. Light filtration. A bit too extracted for me. Costs 7 €.
__ Domaine de Crève Coeur, Côtes du Rhone Villages Sablet 2011 Grenachu plus 20 % Mourvèdre. Nice exciting nose, meat juice, dust. Color : already ecolved. Not bad at all, there a cocoa side in the mouth, quite spicy, very interesting wine. To try again. Still, the tannins are quite important here, but this is a 2011 and the wine has time.
__ Domaine de Crève Coeur, Côtes du Rhone Villages Séguret 2012. Grenache and mourvèdre (40 %). Very intense freshness wrapped in a refined tannic texture. Nice length in the mouth. Costs 10 € tax included only, a steal.
__ Markus Altenberger Reserve Neuburger 2012. White wine, Burgenland variety.
__ Markus Altenberger Jungenberg Chardonnay 2012. Remained 1,5 year in barrels. Dry, mineral feel, with a tannic touch.
__ Markus Altenberger Ried Satz Blaufränkisch 2012. Interesting, I like this one. Powerful, fruity and goes down well. Stayed 9 months in foudres, large capacity barrels made locally by a cooper named Karl Roll if I'm right. Destemmed grapes, fermentation temp between 25 °C & 30 °C.
__ Markus Altenberger Leithaberg Blaufränkisch 2011. 2 years in foudres. The mouth is splendid, with a bright freshness and tamed tannins, don't miss this one.
__ Markus Altenberger Jungenberg Blaufränkisch 2011. From vines 40 to 50 years old, on schist. Refineness feel on the nose, full of promises. Super powerful wine, I hear the noise of my stomach (in general a good sign for me). Very elegant and obviously at the begining of its time window for drinkability. Very nice wine.
__ Markus Altenberger Gritschenberg Blaufränkisch 2011. The bottle was a bit too cold to drink. Limestone soil. A very interesting minerality here, saline type, I like that. 14,5 % alc. It still begins to be quite powerful for me, but this wine is worth a try.
I ended my time in this tasting event with the wines of Mathieu Coste (Coteaux du Giennois, Loire) again, I tasted just a small part of the wines that day. We chatted a bit, it's been a while since I visited his domaine, he was right taking the wheel at the time.
__ Mathieu Coste Coteaux du Giennois Biau 2008. 80 % gamay, 20 % pinot noir. He says that he looks for grapes reaching a nice maturity.
__ Mathieu Coste Coteaux du Giennois MC2 2012. Pinot Noir and Gamay. Very good, superb quality, the wine lets itselg go in the moth, it's gorgeous, goes down so well, don't miss that. Costs only 10 € tax included.
Read this interesting article (in French) published by Libération about this event and the writer behind Le Rouge & Le Blanc.
Le Rouge & Le Blanc : Muscadet article with tasting notes from a selection of quality wines of the appellation.
Le Rouge & Le Blanc : Cahors article (part I).
Here are the places where to find Le Rouge & Le Blanc (in France and abroad).